City addresses water billing confusion

Jennifer Glasscock
Staff writer

Some Braidwood residents were caught off guard last week when as many as 400 households received their water bills sooner than anticipated — and with a due date of the next week.
Beginning May 1, the city of Braidwood switched its water billing cycle from every other month to monthly, but the city did not send out any formal notice to residents letting them know about the change.
Tony Altiery, city administrator, said the failure to notify residents was the fault of him and Doug Money, Public Buildings and Property commissioner.
Altiery said the city has been sending out half of the town’s water bills one month and the other half the next month, because up until now residents have been paying their water bills every other month. He didn’t expect the new monthly bills to get sent out during this cycle, and by the time he found out, some people already received their new monthly bills.
Some residents began receiving bills as late as last week with due dates of May 15, leaving them with just a few days to pay before the due date. This was because the bills were sent out about five days later than what the city would have preferred, Altiery said.
People who received monthly bills last week will not be hit with late fees for paying a few days late, Altiery said.
Some residents were receiving their final bi-monthly bills this month and the rest of the town will begin getting monthly bills in June.
Residents took to social media Thursday to express their frustrations about the lack of notice, with one post on a public Facebook group sparking a conversation with over 110 comments from confused or upset residents.
One Braidwood resident, Catie Morris, commented, “City of Braidwood says they announced it at the meeting and you can watch it online — right, Braidwood, how many people tune into that? And what about those not connected to the internet? Or those who are not computer savy? We should have been told this well before the day we find them in our mailboxes. I thankfully still work right now — but I know there are people who did not plan on having this dropped on them...very inconsiderate.”
During the March 10 City Council meeting, Altiery mentioned that water bills would be switching from bi-monthly to monthly, but no timeline was given because the city needed to hire a second meter reader at that time.
In an interview with Altiery on April 2, he said the city was aiming to switch over to monthly bills by May, but June would be the latest. At that time, the city was still waiting on completing the hiring process for the second meter reader.
During the April 28 City Council meeting, there was no mention of the change in billing cycle, but the city did waive the 4% annual increase until July 28 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city decided to switch to monthly bills to make it easier for residents to budget, said Altiery, who also said people have been calling and coming in to City Hall to request the change to monthly billings.
“We’re doing everything in our power to make it easier for citizens,” he said Thursday.
Last week the city also released a breakdown of charges on water bills.
Everybody’s bill should have a flat rate of $27.96 for garbage and $32.39 for delivery. Billing varies for water and sewage depending on the amount of gallons used, but every house is billed at least 1,000 gallons per month, which is $8.49 per month ($5.79 for water and $2.70 for sewer usage).
Residents can still pay by mailing in their checks to Braidwood City Hall, dropping off checks at the drive-thru at City Hall, paying online through the city website, or through automatic withdrawals through their banks.
Those who pay through the city website can expect a lower credit card processing fee when the city switches systems, which Altiery said should happen in the next 30 days.