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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.

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.
Manny P. 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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