July 18, 2024
Local News

Residents in unincorporated Will County wants answers on Joliet demand for $197,000

Greenfield neighbors receive collective bill for $197,000

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JOLIET – Matthew Withers and his neighbors opened the mail one day this summer to find a letter telling them they collectively owe a total of $197,000 to the City of Joliet.

Withers lives in the Greenfield neighborhood, an area of Joliet Township outside of the city. But sewage from Greenfield eventually goes to a Joliet treatment plant. And that’s why the city is sending a bill.

With about 100 homes in the Greenfield subdivision, it did not take Withers long to figure out he could be owing nearly $2,000 if the city is right.

But attempts to find out what is going on have been difficult, he said. Not making it any easier is the city’s claim that the money is owed because the Greenfield Sanitary District – which may now exist in name only – has not sent any payments since 2009.

“Why all of a sudden, after lo these many years have passed, is it that the only information we’ve got is that letter saying we owe a couple of thousand dollars?” Withers asked.

Withers and a couple of neighbors in Greenfield, located in the area of Rowell Avenue and New Lenox Road, have been trying to find out more about the status of the Greenfield Sanitary District.

They know the district existed at one time, because they used to pay bills to it. The Greenfield Sanitary District still appears on their property tax bills, but it does not levy for money.

“We wanted to see who the board members were and how many homes there are,” Withers said. “We haven’t got any answers.”

When Withers picked up the latest copy of the annual Will County Directory, the page that lists sanitary districts in unincorporated areas did not include Greenfield.

Joliet officials said they have had trouble getting information.

Joliet Utilities Director James Eggen said the last known member of the board who ran the Greenfield Sanitary District died about 10 years ago. City officials have been going to his daughter to get information, he said.

Eggen referred questions to City Attorney Marty Shanahan, who had few answers.

“All I know is we’ve got some records and we’re looking into it,” Shanahan said.

The city has four banker boxes and an old computer that Shanahan said apparently were used at one time by the Greenfield Sanitary District.

Asked why the city has not attempted to collect money until now, Shanahan, who was hired in December, said that he and new Finance Director James Ghedotte decided to deal with the matter once they learned about it.

“I wish I could answer that question,” he said. “All I know is we have a new finance person and we have a new legal counsel, and we decided this has to be addressed head-on.”

Issues with
other districts

Greenfield is not the only sanitary district outside city limits being billed for money Joliet claims has gone unpaid for years.

Joliet this summer also issued notice to the South Ridgewood Sanitary District that it wants $622,000 for payments the city claims have not been made since 2004.

South Ridgewood has a lawyer and a board. The district collect payments from residents and has been in court with Joliet previously over the bills. South Ridgewood contends the city's charges are highly inflated because of malfunctioning city meters.

The South Ridgewood district collect payments from residents.

In both cases, the sanitary districts are supposed to bill residents. The sanitary districts then pay Joliet for use of the treatment plant.

Longtime Greenfield resident Roger Williams said the Greenfield Sanitary District was formed in the mid-1980s. He had been on a septic system previously but was forced to hook onto the sanitary system, Williams said.

The sanitary district initially collected payments every two months, Williams said. Later, payments to the sanitary district were made through annual property taxes. Greenfield Sanitary District still appears on his annual tax bill, Williams said, but there is no longer any levy amount.

“It says Greenfield Sanitary District and nothing,” Williams said. “I think the most I ever paid on it was $27 and as low as $13.”

That empty spot on the tax bill, along with a sewage lift station on Rowell Avenue where city trucks stop to read a meter, may have been the only signs left of the Greenfield Sanitary District until Joliet sent out its letter in June.

Bob Gaddy, like his Greenfield neighbors, finds the situation unsettling.

“The city or county,” Gaddy said, “should have records of everything from the beginning.”

Instead, the city is not even sure how it would bill individual Greenfield residents if it decides to force payments.

Said Shanahan: “That’s a good question.”