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Are Maywood residents footing the water bill for commercial customers?

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L. NICOLE TROTTIE

MAYWOOD | Despite the 2012, 2013, and 2014 investigations, Maywood water problems continue to plague the village made up of mostly “minority” residents.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Community Inspector General Unit opened a theft-by-deception investigation in 2012 into what became known as the Maywood water billing fraud scheme that resulted in the firing of four village employees.

When one Maywood village employee found a loophole in water bill liens double-paid to the village in 2012, she allegedly used the extra money to credit the accounts of fellow employees and others. Another investigation in 2013-14 found almost $27,000-worth of diverted water bill payments were credited fraudulently to the accounts of village employees and other individuals.

According to investigation documents, the Maywood water billing department had a years-long practice of sometimes double-billing customers who had water liens blocking the sale of their property. A forensic audit said a total of $60,598.79 was erroneously double-paid to the accounts of 31 properties between February 2012 and October 2013.

Employees told investigating sheriff’s officers if a customer did not notice the overpayment, the “credit would be zeroed out and the extra would remain in a Village of Maywood account.” According to investigation documents, an employee allegedly told other employees whose accounts were allegedly fraudulently credited that the Village of Maywood had a “fund to help residences pay their water bill.” The employee’s supervisor’s water bill was one of the accounts fraudulently credited. The supervisor was fired.

Since the investigation, the village has proposed specific actions it has taken to mitigate water loss, of those the village says it needs to compare the annual water rate usage per each high-volume customer (typically commercial customers) over a period of the last five years and identify and investigate any large fluctuations in usage. It’s been suggested to physically replace the meters of the top 40 users in Maywood to reduce the aged metering losses.

Roy Strom is a Maywood-based large commercial customer. Strom is a recycle and refuse company, that specializes in waste removal. Strom’s 15,000 sq. ft. facility is located at 1201 Greenwood Ave, houses about 100 employees, and generates $11 Mil in annual revenue, according to Buzzfile a company information database.
The facility includes a sprinkler system, a truck was rack “used daily to wash all the trucks and the equipment”, bathrooms, and an odor suppressing misting system in the waste transfer station building, according to a in a letter to the editor sent to West Suburban Journal by a Roy Strom employee. Based on the Roy Strom water bills and receipts obtained by West Suburban Journal under the Freedom of Information Act, the water bill charges are comparable to that of a single- family home of 2,000 square feet, 3 bedrooms, and 2.5 bathrooms.

Roy Strom Commercial Business 12-month Water & Sewer bill analysis:

 

 

 

In the wake of alarming reports on the disparity of water rates in low-income and minority communities, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, 1st Dist., recently proposed the county intervene. The Cook County Board voted last Wednesday to hold a hearing, based on Boykin’s recommendation, to examine the issue.
Boykin’s district covers Maywood, a community 90 percent and greater African American, with an emerging Latino population. Communities with similar demographics are among those found to have disproportionately high-water bills compared to more affluent and white populations. In Maywood’s case, residents pay an average 20 percent higher water bill than Oak Park and River Forest residents – and boasts the seventh-largest monthly water bill among towns that receive Lake Michigan water and manage their water systems in the area,” according to a Tribune report.

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