Getting Hosed: Metropolis Presents 91-12 months-Outdated Retired CPS Trainer A “Cost Plan” For A $57,000 Water Invoice

2021-05-18 04:07:28

CHICAGO (CBS)Getting Hosed was going to be a single story about a pair billed $58,000 for water they didn’t use. Now, it’s greater than two years of chronicling unfair and probably illegal water billing practices in Chicago. 

The CBS 2 Investigators have discovered the Metropolis division whose taxpayer-funded accountability it’s to supply secure, inexpensive ingesting water has totally failed customers and undermined our investigative efforts at each flip. 

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We’ve lengthy identified the Metropolis takes an apathetic method to customer support, however till this story, we didn’t notice how callously detached it could possibly be.  

Focusing on Chicago’s Most Susceptible Inhabitants 

Beatrice Ritchie spent 48 years as Ms. Ritchie: a particular training trainer at Chicago’s Public Faculties. She devoted her life to Chicago’s most weak. Now she’s the weak one: she has dementia. 

We interviewed her early within the day, whereas she’s nonetheless in a position to recount a few of her best accomplishments, similar to being the second Black speech therapist within the Metropolis of Chicago. 

However what introduced us to Ms. Ritchie wasn’t her spectacular educating background or her failing reminiscence — it was her water invoice, which she’s in fact forgotten. 

The invoice for her Southside six-flat is now almost $60,000 for water that was by no means used. Actually, the constructing has been boarded up and vacant since her final tenant moved out in 2018. 

The Water Is Off

Russell Cochran is Beatrice’s son-in-law and now one among her major caregivers. He’s been fervently combating this invoice on her behalf. 

And there’s one factor he desires to clarify: “Water’s shut off. Water’s shut off on the street. Water’s shut off within the constructing.”

But it surely’s not Russell making this assertion he captured two separate Chicago Division of Water Administration staff verifying the water was off on the property. 


A Fallible Billing System

”I figured there was some type of error, and we’d motive with the Metropolis of Chicago they usually’d appropriate the error,” Russell stated. 

Determine once more. Our sequence, Getting Hosed, proves payments solely get mounted when the CBS 2 Investigators become involved. 


Regardless of our almost two years of exposing the Metropolis’s dangerous billing practices, the Metropolis advised Russell its system is “infallible.” 

We’ve heard in any other case. 

“The techniques should not talking to 1 one other and we have now to handle that concern,” Alderman Gilbert Villegas advised CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards in February

Ald. Villegas, who as soon as known as out Metropolis Corridor on Twitter in response to one among our investigations, says he’s been inspecting the Metropolis’s fallible billing processes. 

And he’s not the one Metropolis Council member who has taken concern with Chicago’s regressive billing insurance policies. 

Aldermen Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and Daniel La Spata co-sponsored the just lately launched “Water For All Ordinance.”

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“Oftentimes our places of work are left scratching our heads,” stated Ald. Ramirez-Rosa.

 The ordinance follows the United Nations residential customary the place you may’t pay greater than three p.c of your revenue on water.

However Chicago’s a great distance from that. 100 and eighty thousand accounts are nonetheless unmetered, that means their water utilization is predicated on estimates slightly than precise gallons consumed. 


However as our reporting has proven, metered accounts are plagued with issues too

When a metered account receives an abnormally excessive invoice, the Metropolis chalks this water utilization as much as a leak and usually refuses to discover various causes. 

In circumstances like Ms. Ritchie’s, even when the property proprietor has a plumber confirm no leaks occurred, the Metropolis received’t budge on its stance. 

Putting The Burden On Customers

The true leaker, nevertheless, is the Metropolis. Information we obtained from the Illinois Division of Pure Assets reveals its historic infrastructure has leaked greater than 67 billion gallons since 2016, which quantities to almost $265.9 million in response to Chicago water charges.

Who picks up that tab? Chicagoans. 

Regardless of promising to finish the specter of water shut offs again in October 2019, since she’s been in workplace, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s despatched out 509,513 notices threatening to finish customers’ water service in the event that they don’t pay.

We requested Lightfoot’s workplace why they might ship out these notices — her workplace’s assertion answered no questions. 

 Assertion From Mayor’s Workplace Spokesperson: 

“One of many first acts taken by the Lightfoot administration was to finish the apply of water shutoffs attributable to a resident’s incapability to pay as a result of it’s her sturdy perception that each resident ought to have entry to ingesting water. The Metropolis has traditionally leaned on regressive assortment actions which have harmed our low-income communities probably the most, and underneath the Mayor’s management, we have now taken steps to reform these insurance policies of the previous. Because the Metropolis makes progress on this effort, we remind all owners that it’s nonetheless their accountability to pay their payments. For individuals who fall behind, residents could obtain a 30-day, 60-day or 90-day reminder notices asking them to return into compliance. Account holders who stay late and out of compliance will proceed to obtain month-to-month reminder notices, and the kind of discover varies relying on the account holder’s standing throughout the billing cycle. Anybody struggling to pay their utility debt is inspired to go to the Metropolis’s web site or name the Division of Finance at 312-744-4426 to work with the Metropolis to guage present debt and to convey their account into compliance.”


Along with this lack of transparency, public document requests we’ve submitted are oftentimes delayed for months, and once we do obtain them, essential data is sort of fully redacted. 

Months-Lengthy Freedom Of Data Act Request From The Chicago Division Of Water Administration


A Metropolis “Answer”

The CBS 2 Investigators have been asking about Ms. Ritchie’s property for months. The Metropolis, presumably sad with our two-year investigation, is now not answering our particular billing questions. 

 Assertion From Mayor’s Workplace Spokesperson: 

“Each the Division of Finance and the Division of Water Administration are dedicated to offering the very best customer support to our residents. If in case you have a query about your utility invoice, please name 312-744-4420. If in case you have a problem along with your water service, please name 311. We have now been working with this buyer and their utility account already, and can comply with up with them once more about their account.”

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Their answer? They provided to place 91-year-old Ms. Ritchie on a fee plan. A plan which can value her greater than a thousand {dollars} a month and take her years to pay. 

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