Are Naperville Residents Being Overcharged?

Brain teaser. Can you use the following words in a seven-word sentence: deduct, defense, defeat, and detail? Time is up. The answer is, ‘Deduct jumped over defense defeat before detail’. Now try this one, ‘Are Naperville residents being overcharged for garbage pick-up?’. OK, so that’s a trick question.

But it’s also a question that some Naperville residents are asking. It all started with one resident, that’s usually how things get started.

A Naperville resident went to work one day recently, and came home to find his electric was turned off. Thinking that Naperville’s reliable service had been interrupted in his neighborhood, he asked his neighbor and found it was working. He called the city, and was informed that the city had turned off his electric service because a deposit had not been paid.

He moved from one part of Naperville to another about 6 months ago, and thought the deposit at the previous address would be applied to his current address.Wrong. The City said a disconnect notice was sent, which the resident did not receive until the day after his electric was disconnected.

To solve the immediate problem, the resident paid the deposit in full, but then, to add insult to injury, the City hit him for a $40 reconnect fee though the disconnect notice arrived the day after service was stopped. I guess if enough residents get hit with a $40 fine, the $1.8 million budget deficit becomes more manageable.

When all the dust settled and the electric was reconnected and fees and fines flowed from the resident to the City, the resident began to research his paper trail of payments that evening. It was much easier to do with the electric back on; candles and flashlights make it so cumbersome when fumbling through bills.

Here is where it gets really interesting. When he reviewed his monthly utility bill, he noticed he is getting hit with a refuse charge. Not refuge, or refuel, but refuse as in trash or garbage. The issue is that the contracted company that Naperville uses is not the company hauling refuse in his area.

It’s possible this is an aberration, or a simple clerical mistake, something that can be simply resolved. However it’s also possible it’s widespread over a long period of time. It’s like dripping water, a little can be inexpensively wiped up quickly, but over a long period of time, it becomes a costly, major clean-up mess.

Time will tell, along with some good research. Until then, it remains a brain teaser.

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  1. Naperville is now a large community. During the period of rapid growth a few years back, a lot of unique situations were created were non residents started to receive some city service and other resident did not receive all city services. The problem is that no real good procedures were put in place to deal with these unique situations (probably less than 1% of city services clients). As a result unless the person involve starts a dialog with the city about their concerns it is unlikely the city will become aware of them.

    For example, several years back some Lisle township residents were connected to Naperville waste water/sanitary sewer service as part of a federally funded project and an agreement with the Lisle township . For Naperville residents the amount paid for this service is based on city water usage which is metered. Since these Lisle township residents do not use city water there is no way to meter their usage, so they are charged a flat monthly fee. When a Naperville residence is vacated the water usage stops and the waste water fee becomes zero, or when the water service is turned off so is the waste water fee. But for these Lisle township residents there is no way to turn off this waste water fee, since there was never a policy adopted by the city to deal with this unique situation.

    In these situations the city management and staff are not trying to rip anyone off, they simple are not aware of what is happening since the normal means of monitoring these services, for one reason or another, does not apply to these situations. Unfortunately, in situations were fees are involved, the solution can become complicated and take time to fix since any policy involving money generally needs city council approval.

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