Residents upset over Sugar Grove water bill fee

by Susan O’Neill
Sugar Grove—Residents upset to learn of a processing fee for their water and sewer bills told the village they were not happy with its decision to penalize residents who do not use the village’s automatic debit system.

“I pay cash,” Tom Cesario said. “How much better can you do than cash?”

With fewer staff to process payments for water and sewer services, the village came up with a plan it thought would solve the problem—charge people $1 extra if they do not choose to sign on to an automatic withdrawal from their checking account to pay their bill.

The plan was supposed to help to pay for the additional staff time it takes to process a payment by check or cash, as well as to encourage people to use the streamlined electronic approach. And it has worked.

Although the system has been in place for years, less than 25 percent of the 4,100 residents who pay for village water currently use the automatic debit. With the threat of an additional $1 added to their bill, another 150 signed up within the last month.

But some older residents and those who don’t trust technology do not feel the additional charge is fair. Bill Durrenberger told the board on Tuesday that he felt he was being strong-armed.

Even some of the trustees are not in favor of the extra charge.

“Bill, I agree with you,” trustee Bob Bohler said. “I don’t trust the electronic payments. I personally pay by check everywhere.”

“Why should somebody be punished because they’re not computer savvy?” trustee Kevin Geary asked.

Board members on Tuesday decided that instead of charging those who don’t sign up for the automatic withdrawal the additional $1, everyone will be charged an additional 50 cents on their water bills and 50 cents on their sewer bills. Those who use the automatic service will have $1 deducted from their bill.

Currently, all customers receive a water bill in the mail from the village. Two weeks later, the amount listed on the bill is automatically deducted from their checking account. The process saves staff time to post the payments, as well as eliminating the return envelope for people who pay by check.

“It is working,” trustee Melisa Taylor said. “We need to reward the people who are not writing checks.”

The measure was passed, with Geary voting no.

Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger said that the water and sewer funds are self-sufficient funds, and the costs associated with these services, such as chemicals to treat the water, need to be paid for through fees.

The village also voted to raise the rates by 7 percent starting next year.

Village rate, fee increases (Effective June 1)
Water rates
Base rates of $7.40 a month will go up to $7.92, $8.42 with an
additional 50 cent processing fee
Water usage rates
Rates of $2.75 per 1,000 gallons will increase to $2.94
Rates of $2.76 per 1,000 gallons will increase to $2.95
Sewer rates
Base rates of $8.10 will go up to $8.67, $9.17 with an additional
50 cent processing fee
Refuse rates
Monthly refuse rates will increase by 80 cents, from $18.75 to $19.55
Permit and inspection fees
A 5 percent average increase across-the-board
Compliance ticket fees
The same amount will be charged for first offenses as is currently
charged for second and third offenses, for violations such as
overnight parking ($25), underage consumption or possession of
alcohol by a minor ($300), and possession of drug paraphernalia ($300).