CHICAGO (CBS) — A CBS 2 Investigation found some south suburban homeowners said their water bills have tripled in a matter of months.
They want to know why now, why the huge increase and where is the money going?
CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker went to get some answers.
In the small suburban Village of Burnham, the population is just over 4,000 and the median income is only $44,000. So when a water bill nearly triples….
“It causes more stress. I work part time just to meet the bills. But now I have to work more of course,” said Joyce Bischoff. Her water bill went from $48 to $136. Because on May 1, the village doubled its water rate from $4.25 per 1,000 to $8.50.
According to a village ordinance, the money was needed to “repay the loan.” This is in reference to a 1.4 million Illinois environmental loan that the village applied for more than two years ago to upgrade its water meters.
But here’s problem: the village doesn’t have loan because the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t approved it. And according to a former village employee, who didn’t want to be identified, the village ignored a report from its own consultant recommending rates go up a few cents, as opposed to a few dollars.
“They’re basically saying if you raise this water rate 40 cents that’s what it’s going to cost to pay for this IEPA loan,”said the former employee.
“Raise it a dollar and nobody would’ve complained about it,” said Burnham resident John Hajduch. “I see greed written all over it.”
“It’s not just to pay the loan back,” said Burnham Mayor Robert Polk, who didn’t offer any dollar figures to explain what the money would be used for. Polk did rattle off a list of expenses that seem to be associated with running any department, anytime.
“Benefits for health and dental. We got the utilities. For that we have the insurance,” Polk said.
A village resident said she’d like for the municipality not to jump the gun in charging residents extra.
“I would like them to wait with any increase, roll back the prices and not hit us with any increase until they actually do receive money from the EPA,”Bischoff said. “That would be the most logical and sensible thing.”
The mayor said he would revist the issue if Burnham did not get the EPA loan. The residents also face a three percent rate increase every year for the next 20 years.