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Emanuel Has Plan To Recover Unpaid Water Bills From Suburbs

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Scott Olson/ Getty Images)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Scott Olson/ Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel has a plan to recover almost $15 million owed by some suburbs for unpaid water services provided by the City of Chicago.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Conway reports, the mayor said Sunday that the city has developed payment plans to recover the money from unpaid water services that Chicago has provided to the suburbs.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Conway reports

Under the plan, two thirds of the money will be repaid by early 2013.

An investigation last month by CBS 2 and the Better Government Association uncovered the delinquent bills, which surprised suburban taxpayers who thought they were paying for that water.

Harvey owes Chicago $6.2 million, Robbins owes $6.1 million, Dolton owes $1.7 million and Maywood owes $1.6 million.

In addition to the $15 million the BGA found in unpaid bills, CBS 2 found another $19 million in water usage that was never billed. Last month, Emanuel said that is going to stop.

The mayor recently told officials from the four suburbs that his administration would work with them to develop fair plans. Last week, Department of Water Management Commissioner Tom Powers met with officials from Harvey, Maywood and Dolton and negotiated plans to ensure their debts will be paid within 18 months of their City Council and boards’ approvals.

Together, those three communities owe Chicago over $9 million in water bills.

Powers also met with officials in Robbins, which owes Chicago $6.3 million, and will continue to work with them to complete a payment plan by the end of this year.

As of now, suburbs must pay for water service, but private hospitals, private schools, private museums, and religious institutions may request free water – and many get it.

Right now, only the largest of those institutions, like the University of Chicago Hospitals, pay for at least some of the water they use. They would not say how much, calling it “private information.”

Ald. Ed Burke (14th), who chairs the City Council Finance Committee, said last month: “There has to be a re-evaluation of all this, there is no doubt in my mind. We just don’t have the luxury anymore of sitting back and not collecting every dime that we can.”

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