Water Meter Glitch Leads to Hefty Bills for Plainfield-Area Residents

Homeowners hit with $1,100 bill after having faulty meter fixed; City of Joliet says situation is “somewhat unusual.”

When Deanna Drapeau responded to a notice that her water meter was broken, she never expected what would come next.

A resident of the Aspen Falls subdivision near Caton Farm and County Line roads, Drapeau said she and numerous neighbors have been hit with astronomical water bills from the City of Joliet, which provides sewer and water service for the area.

“Mine was $1,100,” said Drapeau.

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She said the saga began in November, when she received a notice that her water meter was not working correctly. The notice asked homeowners to schedule a time for a City of Joliet worker to come out and repair the meter — which Drapeau did.

“I almost had a mini heart attack because the first bill came right after Christmas,” the mom of four said. A customer service rep from Joliet’s water department explained that the hefty bill was for the 15 months that the water meter was not working properly.

The $1,100 bill was based on the family’s estimated water usage over the 15-month period, Drapeau said.

Other neighbors in the Aspen Falls and Clearwater Springs subdivisions had bills totaling more than $800, according to Drapeau. Some of them have outlined their water woes on a Facebook page dedicated to the subdivisions.

Mom Kellie Gergits said she was told a 25 percent down payment was required to begin a payment plan on her $850 bill.

According to Gergits, her meter was malfunctioning for nearly two years.

“I’m just shocked that it took 20 months for someone to contact me,” she said.

“I honestly thought it was some kind of mistake,” Gergits said of the whopping water bill.

Jon Hall, capital program engineer with the City of Joliet, said he didn’t have specific information on the problems reported by Drapau and her neighbors, but said the situations were “somewhat unusual.”

“You should never see an $800 or $1,100 bill, so something else is going on there,” Hall said. “In this case it was a big shock to people, and we want to avoid that.”

He said the longer a meter is inaccurately measuring water usage, the higher the bill tends to be.

“The key there would be when you get that notice” that your meter is not functioning correctly, “to call us as soon as possible,” Hall said.

He also advised customers to keep a close watch on their bill. If you notice a significant increase or decrease in the amount of your bill, contact the City of Joliet’s customer service department at 815-724-3820, Hall said.

Customers who want to make sure their meter readings are accurate can also learn how to read their own meters.

“If they don’t know how to do that, they can call and we can help them,” Hall noted. “The bottom line is that we’re trying to monitor and get accurate reads.”

The City of Joliet is in the process of installing new meters that can be read remotely to help cut down on labor and ensure accuracy, he said. Of the city’s roughly 46,000 public utility customers, all but about 10,000 have the new meters. The rest should be installed by the end of the year, Hall said. 

‘I learned the hard way’

Gergits said she’s slowly paying down the balance of her bill.

“I made a $250 payment right away, and I’ve just been chipping away at it,” she said.

As for Drapeau, she said she hopes to work out a payment plan, but hasn’t heard back from the city’s billing department.

“It’s been 14 days since I [called], and I haven’t heard from anybody,” she said.

 “It’s very frustrating,” Drapeau said. “Isn’t that part of their job — to make sure their equipment is working?”

As frustrated as she is, Drapeau said she’s also concerned that other homeowners could find themselves in the same situation.

“I’m worried about all the other people out there who are in the position I was a few months ago and are just paying their bills and not knowing anything is wrong,” she said.

As frustrating as the situation was for the homeowners, Gergits said it taught her to scrutinize her utility bills more closely.

“It opened my eyes,” she said. “I learned the hard way — I’ll start looking closely [at my bills] now.”

Have you experienced similar issues? Let us know in the comments.


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Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Gergits' name. We apologize for the error.

Olddeegee January 31, 2013 at 06:22 PM
Why didn't you pay the ticket 21 years ago?
Kellie Gergits January 31, 2013 at 07:04 PM
This is Kellie Gergits (from the article...they spelled my name wrong!) Let me also clarify that I DID in fact contact the water company as soon as I got the notice and the giant bill. According to the above source he says that "The key is to call immediately"...I did! It didn't do me any good. In fact my water bill went even HIGHER the second time I called after I got the meter switched out. Also, let me clarify that the reason I did not see any red flags on my bills is that they were estimating my bills for 20 months based on the previous months before the meter "broke"...In that 20 month period of time there were some major water cost hikes in Joliet that I was UNAWARE of because MY bills stayed the same while EVERYONE else's bills were going higher and higher each month. How was I supposed to know that? It's not like I go to parties with my neighbors and talk about OUR WATER BILLS!!! SO, since it was a 20 month period of time, the estimated bills were WAY off what they should've been in actuality. But I 100% agree that I should NOT be punished for THEIR faulty equipment or their UNDERSTAFFED office! If they had notified me 20 MONTHS prior when they SHOULD have, I would've taken care of it right away and had been paying the correct amount. Also, when I was dealing with this I had spoken to a couple of TERRIBLE customer service reps that threatened to shut my water off if I didn't pay at least 25% of the bill within the month. EXCUSE ME?
Kellie Gergits January 31, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Thankfully I was connected to one customer service rep that was actually pretty helpful and kind. Her name was Esmerelda. Big shout out to her for at least being kind and compassionate. I still have the giant water bill and we're still chipping away at it...and needless to say, I'M STILL ANGRY!
Pat January 31, 2013 at 07:48 PM
I also had a problem with my water meter, got the huge bill after they came out and fixed the meter now I keep a lawyer on retainer for things like that and for when the city of Chicago trys attacking my state refund for $60 for a parking ticket I never got. The city of Chicago thing I had my lawyer look into and as it ends up the ticket was placed on a car that I never even owned, we had to go to state records to list all cars I ever owned with their license plate numbers to get the money back. Before anyone asks if it was worth having to pay the lawyer to do that the answer is YES worth every penny.
Town January 31, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Why are we reporting on Joliet's water service problems? Why is this considered news to Plainfield residents? Inst there a Joliet Patch where this can be reported?
bill witherspoon January 31, 2013 at 08:15 PM
did those affected contact the supervisor on duty? or better yet the better business bureau or lisa madigan? unsure on the course of action on this. the supervisor i had was no help at all and hung up on me. what other avenues can one get this issue resolved? i may contact chuck goudie. i'm getting justice
Lisa S. January 31, 2013 at 08:53 PM
I would be curiuous what they base their 'estimated use' on, and why if the rate went up, your bill did not. If the amount of water being used was not reading correctly on the meter, I don;t get what it really has to do with the cost of supply. That they should definitely eat the cost of that if it's their error. I would also keep very close track of your actual usage now...and then bring those numbers back to the city if they are less than the 'estimate' the huge bill is charging you for. I have a big family, but we still use less water than our neighbors (yes...we discuss water bills ;-) so it really varies by home.
Jerry January 31, 2013 at 09:04 PM
While I sympathize and would hate to have this happen to me, it seems to be a case of "pay me now or pay me later". You don't seem to be arguing the fact that you used the water. I don't see where the city is charging you late fees, and as long as you are being charged at the rate that the water cost at the time it was used I think they're handling it fairly by offering you a payment plan. If I go to a restaurant and use a credit card but the charge doesn't go through for 3 months it doesn't mean I don't still owe the money.
Kellie Gergits January 31, 2013 at 09:25 PM
That's ok Shannon! Thanks for fixing it! It's misspelled all the time! ;)
Olddeegee January 31, 2013 at 10:25 PM
It should be clarified that this isn't the Plainfield Water Dept. This is all Joliet.
Steve T. January 31, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Wondering if anyone involved could elaborate a little more on the malfunctioning meters. Just wondering how much your water bills were each month with the broken meter and how much they are now with the new meter. We had this problem several years back. Our bills were much lower than families on the other block with similar homes. After a few months I called the village to have them come out and take a look. They had to put in a new meter and thanked me for my honesty and told me eventually the broken meter would have caught up with me.
my conscience February 01, 2013 at 04:08 AM
Kellie Gergits February 01, 2013 at 06:13 PM
Many residents that live in Plainfield are serviced by the City of Joliet Municipal Services.
Shannon Antinori (Editor) February 01, 2013 at 06:17 PM
Again, sorry, and thanks! And something went wonky with our comments for a while (at least from what I could see) so I apologize to any of you who weren't seeing your comments showing up.
Kellie Gergits February 01, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Jerry, I do agree with you on some points. When I called, I was very clear with them that I was not trying to "get out" of paying for the water that I obviously used I'm an honest person and I would never expect to get away with that. I just think that it was handled poorly. First of all, I believe that I should have been notified WELL before 20 months that my meter was faulty. I don't believe that is MY responsibility as a homeowner to know whether or not the meter is working properly. After all, I was receiving bills and paying them on time. The bills were within the same range that I had been paying prior to the faulty meter, therefore I didn't realize that I was paying less than I should have been for all those months. If they were estimating my bills based on those months prior to the faulty meter, they were not taking into account all of the rate hikes that were happening in the meantime...that is also not my fault. I am in fact paying this bill off as much as I can and plan to have it all payed in full within the next few months. I also don't agree with the way I was spoken to the first few times I called, being told that my water would be "shut off" if I didn't pay it by a certain date. If they look at my track record, I have NEVER paid a bill late or missed a payment. There should be NO REASON that they would shut my water off. In my mind if it took them 20 months to notify me of THEIR slip up, I should be given at least the same amount of time to pay it off.
Kellie Gergits February 01, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Deanna and I are both Plainfield residents, but we live in an area of Plainfield that is serviced by the City of Joliet Municipal Services.
Kellie Gergits February 01, 2013 at 06:28 PM
Because my bills were being "estimated" based on the months prior to the meter breaking, they never took into account the rate hikes that happened over the 20 months that I was receiving estimated bills. Therefore my bills were not that far off from what I was used to paying and it was never a "red flag" to me that something was wrong. Once again, until I got the HUGE bill, there was never any clear indication on my billing that told me my bills were being estimated or that there was a problem with my meter. Unfortunately, I didn't talk to my neighbors about the cost of their water in this time frame, otherwise maybe I would've questioned why theirs were going up and up and mine weren't.
Kellie Gergits February 01, 2013 at 06:31 PM
Bill, were you also affected? Just curious. In my mind, this is water that I DID use and I am in the process of paying the bill. While I don't agree with how it was handled on their part, I don't expect to "get out" of paying the bill. It just stinks that it happened the way it did. Keep us posted if you find anything else out!
Jerry February 01, 2013 at 07:32 PM
Kelly, I don't disagree with anything you said, and I like I mentioned I would really hate to have that happen to me. Can't even really consider it a "lesson learned" because how could you have known? And by the way, do yourself a favor don't get into the Joliet vs Plainfield discussion. You will end up wanting to bounce your head off the desk. You will be told about how you don't really live in Plainfield and be met with all kinds of hostility which you don't need on top of all your other aggravation :)
Lisa S. February 01, 2013 at 10:51 PM
Not that it really matters, but if you receive Municipal Services from the City of Joliet, you live in Joliet with a Plainfield postal address. This can be also be confirmed by also reading your property tax bill. (i.e. City of Joliet Fire, LIbrary District, roads, etc) The school district services more towns than Plainfield this is not a factor.
Deanna Drapeau February 01, 2013 at 10:57 PM
Interesting article...makes you wonder...
Seer's Daddy February 02, 2013 at 12:59 AM
Your mailing address has nothing to do with what city you live in. It's only for the post office for mail delivery. Like Olddeegee said, this is Joliet. You live in Joliet. Joliet provides services only to City of Joliet residents.
Kellie Gergits February 02, 2013 at 02:34 AM
Just curious...why does it matter to so many people whether or not we live in Joliet or Plainfield? I don't get it. Either way, the issue in the article was about the way the department handled this situation and bringing it to the attention of other homeowners. Who cares if we "technically" live in Joliet or Plainfield? When we moved here all of the closing documents stated Plainfield, we have Plainfield schools, we get Plainfield Library and Park District services, etc. I think this is a petty argument to be having. Focus on the facts and the purpose of the article. I know that since posting this article on my personal Facebook page I have discovered a few other people that have been affected by this. Do I really care exactly where they live? No. I just wanted people to be aware and possibly stop this from happening to someone else. The article CLEARLY states that the bills were from the CITY OF JOLIET. It's not like anyone ever said the bills came from PLAINFIELD.
Jerry February 02, 2013 at 02:42 AM
Tried to warn you, Kellie. Why does it matter? It doesn't but these fools will beat this dead horse into oblivion. Your best bet at this point is to let it go and not respond to that line of comment anymore. Soon you will be ridiculed for being duped into thinking you were buying in Plainfield when you really weren't. Blah blah blah and on and on it will go. This has been a favorite sport of a select few for a long time on the Patch anytime they get a chance.
Kellie Gergits February 02, 2013 at 02:45 AM
I hear you loud and clear Jerry! Sounds like petty stuff to me! Probably the same people in high school that ridiculed others to make themselves feel better. I'm really not too worried about it and won't feed into it anymore! ;) Keep on keepin' on!
Justin Virrgginn February 02, 2013 at 05:07 AM
In June of 2012 the City notified me that our meter was not working properly, so they sent a tech out to replace the meter, after she installed it she told me that the wire behind our finished wall was bad and could NOT communicate with the satellite box. So I explained to her that everything just passed inspection for occupancy and that this was a brand new home basically. She insisted i was wrong and gave me a spool of wire and told me when i had it fixed call them and they would be back to hook it up..Yes she really did that, so we start receiving "estimated" bills and they quickly climb to 200-300 so I call and its now October, they finally send a private company out called United Meters to assess the problem, the tech tells me theres nothing wrong with the wire that was behind my wall in fact the city tech had not properly hooked the meter up, he then tells me that this is NOT uncommon apparently the city tech had more union senority than the tech united meters trained and schooled on these meters so she got the job and the more experienced girl well we dont know what happened to her..He also tells me that they spend alot of time fixing this ladies mistakes, so he then tells me that they will adjust the bill now and send me a corrected one, they did alright it was $751.00 so I go all over city hall trying to get some help, no help from the Mayors office, the city manager, NO ONE!! So I'm forced to make a payment arrangement only for the city to disconnect me 2 days later
Justin Virrgginn February 02, 2013 at 05:07 AM
then they charged me $880.00 to turn it back on. there was no disconnection notice sent. they told me I had five days to pay the $751.00 on a friday and turned me off Monday. please excuse all the gramatical errors after reading this story Im super pissed. And I don't live anywhere near this part of town, so if its happening there its happening elsewhere.
Seer's Daddy February 02, 2013 at 05:39 AM
It was to correct your statement, "Many residents that live in Plainfield are serviced by the City of Joliet Municipal Services." You had a reduced bill for 15 months. It's $850.00 not a couple thousand. Use the money you saved over that time and write a check.
stephanie February 02, 2013 at 06:23 AM
I had the same problem. I thought my bill seemed high so i called the water company. They told me the meter was fine. Several months later i get a bill for over $700 saying my meter hadnt been working for years. They came and changed the meter and now my bill is %40 less then it was before and yet they were "underestimating" it for two years?? So now what, i get a $3000 bill next year? Im a single mom with two little kids, its a very hard hit to my already stretched thin budget.
Kellie Gergits February 12, 2013 at 12:34 AM
So, the water debacle continues! I've been making payments towards my giant bill since November 21st... I just got my monthly bill today and now it states that my "previous balance" is $200 more than last months "previous balance" even after I made a payment towards it last month! How can that be? I'm calling first thing in the morning...this is just getting RIDICULOUS! I'm really starting to feel like this is some kind of extortion or that SOMEONE is lining their pockets. I could just scream!


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