Joliet gives more time on water bills

Payment plans offered to avoid shutoffs

A Joliet water tower sits off in the distance from an apartment complex in Joliet. Monday, July 18, 2022 in Joliet.

Joliet water customers are getting more time to pay monthly water bills and more options to avoid shutoffs.

The new policies were approved this week as 3,473 water customers face shutoffs if outstanding bills are not paid. The city has about 50,000 water customers.

The number of unpaid bills in the city mounted during a two-year moratorium on shutoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the moratorium was lifted in June 2022, not everyone got the message, Finance Director Kevin Sing said.

“The number of impending shutoffs is higher than you’d normally see,” Sing said.

About 90% of bills are getting paid when the city makes contact with customers in a door-to-door program, Sing said.

The new payment options approved by the City Council this week offer more time to pay monthly bills and plans to pay off large outstanding bills.

They include:

• A payment deadline of 20 days after the monthly water bill is mailed by the city instead of the current 15 days. Penalties will not apply until 30 days after the bill is mailed. Penalties now start after 15 days.

• A payment plan that allows customers to put down 25% on outstanding bills of less than $4,000 and provides four to 12 months to make a full payment. For bills of more than $4,000, 24-month payment plans are available.

• A new provision allowing a reduction in bills for heavy water usage caused by a leak or catastrophe. Such bills can be reduced to 1.5 times a customer’s average water bill with proof such as receipts that the leak occurred and was repaired.

The new payment deadline on monthly bills will take effect in May. The rules for payment plans take effect immediately.

Those who go on payment plans for outstanding bills also must pay their monthly bills on time.

Sing said city staff already is working out payment plans for water customers but wanted a uniform policy.

The city has started a systematic program to notify residents that they face shutoffs by going to houses and dropping off door-hanger cards with the notice. The program has started on the far west side and is working its way to the east side of the city, Sing said.

So far, 1,425 customers have been notified with the door-hangers, and 1,222 have paid up to avoid shutoffs.

“It makes residents aware that this is not a veiled threat,” Sing said. “The majority of residents make a payment or work out a payment plan.”

The city also can help direct residents to programs available to help them make payments on water bills, Sing said.

“If they have a financial situation where they can’t make that payment,” he said, “they should reach out to us to find out their options.”